The Future of Media Is Broader

Matt just retweeted a link on Twitter to this post on Engadget, referring to the fact that at least to date in 2014, no album will have gone platinum in the United States:

The decline in album sales is certainly nothing new, thanks to the smattering of streaming options now available to eager listeners. However, 2014 looks to be particularly awful.Forbes reports that nearly 10 months into the year, no release since January has yet to reach platinum status — a release that sells 1 million copies (in the US). What’s more, only one has sold a million copies: the Frozen soundtrack that hit shelves last year.

I’ve been pondering this recently. Album sales are down across the board. Single sales are also down, at least as far as they are tracked. Usually, what’s blamed for this is the rise of the streaming model, where you pay a single subscription and get access to as much as you want.

But in a world where scarcity is no longer a thing, what if it’s rather that our consumption is changing?

I first started thinking about this when I changed my method for purchasing games to a digital one, both in terms of using console services and with my switching back to using the PC and Steam as the primary source of my game purchasing.

I noticed rather quickly due to that the fluidity of pricing, the types of recommendations I was receiving from friends, and the ease of publishing in a post-physical-media games economy, I was purchasing more things that years ago I would not have considered—or in most cases, would never have been made.

You can see this happening in terms of availability and ease-of-publishing. Just take a look at services like Loudr or Bandcamp. More people are able to publish more types of music or movies than ever before in the history of either medium. Digital makes things cheap and accessible. It democratizes them. (Look at what you are reading now. Fifteen years ago this was barely possible.)

So what’s the longer tail on sales of things like games, music, and movies? What if the future isn’t in huge sales numbers for a very few projects or products, but in smaller sales numbers spread across a far greater number of creators and artists? The removal of scarcity and the (relative) ease of production means that if I have a singular focus or preference as a consumer, I can focus in just those things.

If I like a specific flavor of jazz, I can listen to just that as long as I’m able to find artists that play it. If I like a specific genre of game, often now I can live just within that genre and play those things to my heart’s content.

And even further, the creators of the things I consume are closer to me than ever before due to the rise of blogging and social media. I can interact with them. They can engage with me, increasing my interest and the depth of my support for what they are doing. Everyone is a potential artist. Everyone is a potential curator, sharing their likes and dislikes as I often do here. Everyone can find others that share their unique interests, which further stokes the fire.

The future is less a handful of blockbusters, and more a broad swath of interests that engage a relative few, but more strongly than ever before. It’s already happening in games. It is starting to happen in music. Movies will be the last to change.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the entrenched industries keep up with this shift.

The Favorite

An engrossing and well-written piece by Brian Phillips for Grantland, on the dominance of the Williams sisters, and specifically the current opponent destruction being wrought by Serena:

Serena took over tennis and then … just kept on taking it over. She never stopped being a conqueror. I followed her around at Wimbledon this year, and let me tell you. Have you seen her play in person? The difference between Serena live and Serena on TV is greater than the difference between Roger Federer live and Roger Federer on TV; I’m not kidding. She is just — and I mean, you can spot this with one eye closed from the top row of a stadium — playing a different sport from her opponents.

Watching Wimbledon and the Olympics this year, I was awestruck by just how insanely talented this woman is. It’s electric to watch her play.

And I firmly believe this is because she loves what she does.

Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary Box Set

There’s a news post and some great images on Andriasang regarding the recently-announced 25th Anniversary box set for the Final Fantasy series that’s hitting Japan before the end of the year.

I don’t care enough about this to wonder if it’s getting a US release, most especially because I own all of the games in the series in one form or another—and because some of the decisions are a bit odd—but there is no denying that the disc art focusing on the Amano artwork is fantastic.

 

As I said, there are some moderately bizarre choices in the lineup. It’s clearly meant to be Sony platform-focused, but for example choosing the PS1 editions of 1, 2, and 4 when there are arguably superior PSP versions is odd—as is doing a UMD for 3. It seems to be limited to mainline releases, so no X-2, XIII-2, on IV complete.

The cool thing here is the revelation that there is going to be a PSP release of Final Fantasy III, which I have for my DS but have never finished it. It’s probably not receiving a US release, but it sounds like there’s an English-language option for it so importing is an option. It’s basically the DS version, but sharper-looking and devoid of touch controls, as it should be:

I love the option to select the original soundtrack demonstrated near the end of the video.

 

Finally, Some Mass Effect 3 Single-Player DLC

Alessandro Fillari for Destructoid, previewing Mass Effect 3’s Leviathan DLC:

Just a month after releasing the Extended Cut to their controversial ending, BioWare returns to the Mass Effect 3 universe with their first original add-on to the single-player campaign, called Leviathan. Taking place during Shepard’s war on the Reapers, players will trek across the galaxy in search of a mysterious creature known as the Leviathan that supposedly can combat the Reapers.

Taking influences from the Mass Effect 2’s Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, BioWare hopes to match the scope and presentation with this new add-on — which will also have an influence on the ending.

This should go well.

Playing to Win in Badminton

David Sirlin:

And now we come to the actual problem with the Olympic badminton situation. There are “pools” of round robin play where the top 2 finishers from a pool advance to a single elimination bracket. Further, the system of seeding in the single elimination bracket is known ahead of time. This creates the situation where you could playing pool matches but *guaranteed* to make top 2 by your record. If you win, you will qualify and play team X. If you lose, you will also qualify, but you will play team Y. If you think you have an easier chance of beating team Y, you absolutely should lose on purpose. If you don’t, you aren’t playing to win, and you are kind of a bad competitor. You also happen to be playing in a tournament with absurdly bad rules.

This is the real hang-up with the badminton mess: the teams that were disqualified were doing their best to win the entire competition based on the structure of the tournament. This is the first year badminton has used a round robin opening round in the Olympics. Hopefully it will be the last.

Zynga Being Sued for Insider Trading

John Koetsier for VentureBeat:

As we reported before, Zynga executives and investors, including CEO Marc Pincus, sold over $500 million in stock just three months before. Pincus sold $200 million of Zynga stock, chief operating officer John Schappert sold $3.9 million, and chief financial officer David Wehner sold stock worth $4.6 million.

Unsurprising.

Every time Zynga’s execs open their mouths, they come off as jackasses. Part of the suit alleges that they basically burned their own employees on the IPO.

Classy.

Max Payne 3 Uses a Multiplayer Cheater Pool

Rockstar Blog:

As promised, we’ve taken steps to quarantine confirmed cheaters in Max Payne 3 Multiplayer. Starting today, anyone we’ve found using hacked saves, modded games, or other exploits has officially been cordoned off in a dedicated cheater pool, confined to wallow with other unscrupulous reprobates.

This is the best solution to multiplayer cheating I have seen in a while. And if they are smart, they can use it as a honeypot to catch even more cheaters.

But the best quote is from the FAQ:

How will I know if I’m in the Cheater Pool?

If you know you have cheated and you find yourself either in empty lobbies or always matched with games full of other cheaters, you are likely in the Cheater Pool.

“King Of Kings”

This is one in a series of images from Okami recently posted at Dead End Thrills.

Seeing games like Okami or Xenoblade Chronicles running in high-definition via Dolphin only reinforces to me that the Wii had some amazing art direction in its games lineup that was hampered by the low resolution of the system’s output.

Not upscaling when using backwards-compatibility on the upcoming Wii U further compounds the error. These games would look great with a little upscaling and full-scene effects love, but we’re not going to get to see it.

Ben Kuchera + Penny Arcade = Potential Awesome

Tycho:

There’s an incredibly short list of people I trust to tell me the truth about the industry, even if I don’t always want to hear it, and Ben Kuchera is on top of that list.  You may already be a reader of his at Ars Technica, where he’s been in charge of their gaming coverage for…  well, ever.  Until today, I guess, when I hired him.

We’re bringing him on to create industry coverage you can read without holding your nose, essentially; I want a perspective, I want a Curator for the Internet’s gaming content.  In a couple words, I want something less insulting and disposable.

Ben has ben one of the best voices in games news for a while now and I am extremely interested in seeing what he will be able to do with this move. This is a good thing for the state of games “journalism” and news reporting.

So like the opposite of the Kotaku Core announcement.

Scorekeeper for iOS

If you regularly play games that require manual scorekeeping, you should check this out:

It’s from Matt Rix, the guy who made Trainyard (which was coincidentally enough one of the games discussed in the article I linked yesterday).

The static screenshots of the app didn’t convince me, but seeing it in motion really sells it. It’s a universal app and it’s free for a limited time.

Thanks to Lance Willett for pointing me to this.